Kebabs From Scratch: Not for the Faint of Heart

November 19, 2009 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

Worth every ounce of trouble...

Meat on a stick is a valued dish across the globe, from shwarma to corn dogs.  But the king of all meats on a stick is unquestionably the kebab.  With its diverse origins and countless recipe variants, there’s a kebab for every culture.

During my one month of eating from scratch, I had mastered the simplest of kebabs — that is, skewering and grilling whole chunks of meat and/or veggies on a stick.  But now that I have more time on my hands (since I’m not busy churning butter and curdling cheese), Jeff and I decided to take on a more complex kebab by (*gasp*) grinding our own meat.

Dump ‘n Grind
I like to consider myself a kebab connoisseur.  In fact, my childhood was one big kebab taste test, featuring samples from my mom’s kitchen and the not-so-fancy but extremely delicious South Asian restaurants near our house in New Jersey.  To this day, my favorite kebab is the seekh kebab, a.k.a. reshmi (or silken) kebab, which is made of spiced ground meat roasted on a skewer.

In our effort to replicate the “Is someone putting crack in these?” feeling we get from the New Jersey seekh kebabs, Jeff and I decided it was imperative to grind our own meat — using chicken breasts from an organic chicken that Jeff carved himself.  Sure, it wasn’t my favorite thing in the world … but it’s way less gross than not knowing where your ground meat comes from.

Sealing in the juices...

You Gotta Know How to Roll ‘Em
It turns out rolling a kebab is an art.  While we’d spiced our ground meat perfectly (with onions, garlic, ginger, cilantro, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, and more), our mixture was too mushy to form around skewers … so much for meat on a stick. We worked around the problem by searing our kebabs in a cast iron skillet before popping them in the oven at 375F for 8-10 minutes.

In order to produce perfectly rolled kebabs, Jeff put the chicken mixture in a plastic bag and squeezed out little logs onto the skillet — kind of like using a pastry bag to decorate a cake.  If you’re making the kebabs correctly, they should look, well, kind of unappetizing in their raw form … just maybe not as gross as watching chicken shoot out of the meat grinder on the stand mixer.

Our mushy mixture was a serendipitous mistake, though.  We ended up with perfectly browned kebabs that were tender, mouth-watering, and beautifully spiced.  It seems searing them before roasting actually sealed in the juices.  And the best part is, we were smart enough to make a huge batch we could freeze.  Kebabs all around!  Now that’s something to be thankful for.


Entry filed under: Equipment, Indian Food, Preparation. Tags: , .

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